I have been thinking a lot about names lately. What our names are. What do they mean? Where did they come from? Are they passed on from family or have a historical connection? Why is it so hard for us to remember other people’s names? My names include- Maggie, Margaret, Magpie, Marguerite, Magnolia, Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Friend, Crazy Cat Lady, Assistant, Runner, Swimmer, Coordinator- and more. These aren’t just descriptors, they are a part of who I am. I can never truly be just one of these.
I have never been good at remembering names. It’s something that I have to consciously think about. Since my job requires a lot of travelling and remembering names, I’ve gotten a lot of practice lately. Names are not only important to being courteous, but they have such a deeper meaning. Your name can be your identity. It’s important that it’s said correctly because when it isn’t, that literally is not you. How often do we not even find out people’s names? I’ve been on so many flights where I talk to the person next to me for the whole trip, but never ask their name.
God tells us often how important names are. God even has many names- Creator, Father, Mother, Yahweh, Breath of Life, Friend, Counselor, Holy one- the list goes on. The Bible has a lot of focus on names. It mentions everything from Adam and Eve giving names to each of the animals to giving new names when our hearts are changed like Paul, Abraham and Sarah. So often a person’s name in the Bible tells so much about the person and the situation like in Hosea where God says the child’s name shall be ‘No Mercy’, because he will have no more Mercy on the house of Israel. The name Jesus was given to Mary by Gabriel who was sent by God himself.
In just under two weeks I will be taking a trip with the California-Nevada Conference Philippine Solidarity Task Force to visit the Philippines. This will be my first trip to Asia. The Philippines has been somewhere I’ve wanted to go, especially since my missionary training. So many amazing people in our training class are from this beautiful country, and they have this incredible Spirit about them that I can’t explain. I’ve learned so much since my time with GBGM started, but I’ve learned even more about white supremacy since being involved with the PSTF.
During this upcoming trip, I want to know people’s names. I want to find out who they are and do my best to help break the mold of a white tourist. I have been told that because I’m the only white American in the group, I will be treated differently. I will not be trying to speak the local language. If I’m asked questions about living in the US, I will be including and deferring to my colleagues who may not be asked even though they also live in the US. White America has done some terrible things to the people of the Philippines in the name of Christianity and Humanitarian Aid. In actuality, this has shown up through colonialism and militarism.
What are we doing with our names? What names are we spreading?
I know I don’t always say things correctly or think everything through before I speak, but I hope that my words and actions live up to the name of Jesus Christ. The one who went against the norm. The friend who took time to care and listen to his friends. The savior who knew what was ahead and walked into it confidently, knowing that God would not keep him from suffering, but use his sacrifice to show billions of people what love looks like.
What is your name?
Bridges District of the California-Nevada Annual Conference
San Fransisco, CA
Global Mission Fellow US-2, Class of 2016-2018